The next day’s headline writer made it sound like winning national championships was pretty routine stuff.
But for John Wooden, it was.
“Bruins Give Wooden 10th One for the Road,” it said, suggesting that such an exit was preordained. And maybe it was.
“We wanted to win it bad, for ‘The Man,’ ” Pete Trgovich said.
“There was no way we were going to lose Coach’s last game,” Andre McCarter said.
And they didn’t. UCLA won Wooden’s 10th NCAA title 24 years ago tonight, in the San Diego Sports Arena. It was a 92-85 win over Kentucky--Wooden’s 620th and final victory.
And for one brief moment in his last game he really did seem more like a basketball coach than the quiet, fussy, homespun Indianian, so different from his more volcanic colleagues.
Jim Murray once wrote of Wooden, ". . . . he won NCAA championships with nothing more than 6-5 centers and the Book of Leviticus.”
With 6:23, to play, an official called a technical foul on Bruin Dave Meyers for protesting an offensive foul call, and Wooden showed that even on his final night in the spotlight, he hadn’t shut off his competitive juices.
Infuriated, he moved toward the official but was held back by Meyers and another official.
Then, in the postgame interview room, it was vintage John Wooden.
When asked about the uncharacteristic display of temper, he said: “It’s not good to show that kind of emotion.”
When asked how No. 10 felt, he responded that it was “pleasing.”
Also on this date: In 1931, Notre Dame football Coach Knute Rockne died at 43 in a Kansas airplane crash. He was on a flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles when his plane was caught in a storm. . . . In 1980, 1936 Olympic hero Jesse Owens died at 66. . . . In 1974, the fledgling World Football League shook up the sports world with the stunning announcement that it had signed NFL stars Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield. . . . In 1956, famed turn-of-the-century auto racing driver Ralph DePalma died at 73.